“Clearing encroachments by Tibetans an uphill task”

By S Gopal Puri | TNN

DHARAMSHALA, India, 20 February 2013

Illegal encroachments by Tibetans in McLeodganj area have become a troublesome affair for the forest department, as it has failed to execute the directions of the Himachal Pradesh high court, issued in August last year in this regard. The court had fixed a deadline of March 31, 2013, to clear such encroachments, which is not possible without issuing eviction notices. But despite there being only a month left, the department has not issued even a single eviction notice till date.

Sources said that out of the total 210 such cases in McLeodganj, there are only 18 cases in which the department has imposed fine and issued show cause notices to encroachers. These cases are still under trial, which involves a lengthy legal process, they said.

Enquiries revealed that the forest department is trying hard to generate proper revenue records pertaining to these encroachments, which is also a tough task, as cases are pending since 2001-02. However, the department is authorized to hire retired revenue officials for this purpose, which also has not been done so far, sources pointed out.

It is now almost impossible for the department to complete the task by the deadline set by the high court. In about 1,090 such cases of illegal encroachments on forest land in this area, there were about 210 cases in McLeodganj, involving members of the Tibetan community in exile, sources added.

Asked about the status of the proceedings, divisional forest officer, Basu Kaushal said: “We are in the process of issuing notices to the offenders. In 18 cases, they have been fined and notices issued. It is difficult to meet the deadline, but we are trying our best”.

With a view to ensure environment protection, the high court had also directed the district administration last year to take strict action against Tibetans regarding defacement and painting of rocks. However, after the local administration issued a letter to the Tibetan administration in this regard, the filed a reply disowning responsibility for such actions.

“We disown such writings and paintings on the rocks. It is difficult to clear all those carvings from our office as we do not have any budget to do so,” the reply sent by Tibetan settlement office to the local administration had stated.

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